Double Act by Jacquline Wilson is a childhood classic for many.ANNA PIPER-THOMPSON

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my mum’s voice lulling me to sleep and the sound of pages turning. Linda Chapman’s Stardust books weaved fantasy seamlessly into the everyday world; as the characters stepped through their windows into the magic of the night, I stepped into my dreams. These books followed the characters into a realm where they faced genuine dilemmas and anxieties, but through a story that was exciting, unpredictable, and fascinating. As Lucy Mangan puts it in Bookworm, stories “open up different worlds and cast new light on this one” – something which is indicative of reading at any age, but something I feel we become acutely aware of as we age.

Perhaps it is the English student in me, but I can no longer read without asking why, without mulling over the social implications of books. I find it impossible now to have a favourite book that is not vindicated by some higher purpose, that doesn’t come with a torrent of analysis. Younger me had a passion for books – I still do – but not in the same way. Younger me had a favourite book just because; because she loved it wholeheartedly, because she found joy in reading it, because the pages acted as a tunnel from this world into the next, because she felt she was living those lives as long as her cherished books were in her hands. I yearn to reclaim that sort of reading. Totally immersed, absorbed, passionate.

'A book was a permanent fixture of my person'.ANNA PIPER-THOMPSON

A book was a permanent fixture of my person, my head forever bent, eyes constantly scanning, absorbing story after story, where each night ended with me cocooned beneath my sheets reading till my eyes stung. I even read on a family trip on the London Eye, I was that dedicated. It was in this intense bookworm stage that one of the greatest travesties that can occur to a book lover happened. I lost my book – Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson to be precise. There I was, reading, in Sainsburys, deeply invested in the lives of these twins, when suddenly I was being told to put it down and help carry bags! The audacity! Taking a book from a bookworm is like wrenching off one of their arms; in that moment, I lost a part of myself. Then, in the chaos that was the family shopping trip, my book got left behind. To say I was devastated is to put it lightly. Tears streaming and metaphorical limb missing, my parents drove me back, but to no avail.

“I yearn to reclaim that sort of reading. Totally immersed, absorbed, passionate.”

Double Act was the first book I never finished. Only a handful of books can claim such a title – I have always been the one for finishing a book, in my head it is my side of the bargain of selecting them, for claiming them as my own, it is owed to them. Their worlds remain swirling in my head, always calling for me to pick them up, to step back through the portal and finish the path I set the characters upon. That’s another thing about reading and growing up, we must get better at allowing those worlds to whirl away at the back of our minds. We also have to be more adept at hopping over that line between life and book – no more slowly stepping through, positioning myself comfortably. Double Act has remained swirling in my mind for over a decade.

'Their worlds remain swirling in my head, always calling for me to pick them up'.ANNA PIPER-THOMPSON

That is until a couple of weeks ago, when I opened a parcel from my friend. Tucked inside was the bright, star covered cover of Double Act. As I held it in my hands, I felt tears brimming in my eyes. It is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. I have never felt more peace than when I reached the bold, capitalised, THE END.


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While reading, my brain kept running off, trying to analyse as it always does. It would be remiss not to give credit to Wilson for her ability to write on such important topics such as family, death and individuality. I found myself feeling akin to Garnet, who prepares to move to boarding school in the book. She mirrored the anxiety I felt at moving away from home, of having to learn to define myself on my own. However, I found myself pulling away from this, of wanting to read this the way younger Anna would have wanted. I wanted to bring the magic of childhood reading back, to burrow into the nooks and crannies of the words and to escape there for a little while.

This is something I want to try more, to regain this whimsical, indulgent, immersive experience of books. I want to get lost in books, to love books, to find joy in them for what they are. I want to invite my younger self to come up to the surface, and to show me how to read like her again.